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UN's Annan: Fighting in Darfur Jeopardizes Aid Operations

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warns continued insecurity in Sudan's conflict-ridden province of Darfur may bring humanitarian operations in some parts of the region to a halt.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is extremely worried about the volatile situation in Darfur. He says attacks by rebel groups and criminal activity in the region have created a very dangerous situation for humanitarian workers. He says the killing of two African Union peacekeepers has added to the fears.

Mr. Annan says both the government and the rebels must understand that continued violence will impede humanitarian assistance and delivery.

"It is already impeding access to some of the people in need, and it may require a cessation of operations in some parts of the territory," said Mr. Annan. "But, what they did with the African Union troops is absolutely unacceptable, and a firm stand must be taken by the government."

The United Nations and private aid agencies assist more than two million displaced people in Darfur.

Mr. Annan says pressure must be sustained on both the government and rebel groups to respect the cease-fire, and to take the negotiations in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, seriously.

"Without that political settlement, we will not be able to find a longer-term solution," said Mr. Annan. "And, if the situation in Darfur persists, it may have a negative impact on the implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement, which is now moving forward between the north and south."

Mr. Annan said those responsible for atrocities in Darfur must be brought to justice.

Referring to Iraq, Mr. Annan said it was critical for the constitution to be accepted when Iraqis vote on it Saturday, as negotiations continue in Baghdad to win Sunni Arab support for the charter.

"If we do not get a universal acceptance of the constitution, the likelihood of the violence continuing is there," added Mr. Annan.

The U.N. secretary-general says the nature of parliamentary elections in Iraq in December will depend on the outcome of the referendum on the constitution. If it succeeds, he says, Iraq will get a newly elected democratic parliament. But, if it fails, he says, Iraq's Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds will have to go back to negotiations on a constitution.